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Unfortunate Truths of Being a "Dirtbag" on the Road

Not complaining, just saying.

By: Karissa Frye + Save to a List

I will bluntly admit that I am among the group of Instagrammers who post only the most alluring parts of my dirtbag travels. For the love of authenticity among platforms such as this, I created a list of the unappealing parts of my everyday life while on the road. 

Sleeping in parking lots

I will admit, I have had picture-perfect mornings being engulfed by tall peaks and wildlife. But more regularly, I sleep in parking lots or on dirt roads leading nowhere. Parking lots are less ideal than mountain paradises, but I can't complain about free "camping". Once I got lucky enough to have wifi in a Home Depot parking lot. I Netflix and chilled there for an entire week. But let's focus on the negative, halogen street lamps are intense and on the cusp of being too bright for sleeping under. Parking lots also tend to have a lot of noise, and stumbling out of your car in the morning while employees show up for work is somewhat shameful. 

Having to pee

There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night with an intense urge to pee, and having nowhere to do it. I try so hard to avoid this misfortune. I always find a bathroom right before bedtime and try not to drink too much water during the night. But still, it happens. As a woman in a Subaru, I cannot resort to the ever-so-popular pee-bottle, so it's always an exciting adventure trying to find an accessible bathroom in the middle of the night, while simultaneously trying not to pee my pants.

Showering at recreation centers… but not often

If you’re lucky you'll be in one place long enough to become familiar with the recreation center staff. They will know what you need when you walk in covered in grease and dirt and no judgements will be passed. Not only is the interaction with the staff somewhat uncomfortable, but a single shower can cost up to ten dollars! Once you've dropped ten bucks on a shower, you may discover that you can't control the water temperature and that you must continuously hit a button for water to flow. It is very important to take every shower like it's your last.

Brushing your teeth in public restrooms

I'm not sure if every car-dweller resorts to this, but I am guilty of doing it often. Sinks are just so convenient. You don't have to hover your water bottle over your toothbrush, trying not to pour too much at once and you can get a solid rinse in. This one is all about shame for me. I feel insanely rude when someone catches me spitting into a public sink. It's pretty disgusting, but I have to do it and I'm sorry.

Hanging out at coffee shops all day

I bought coffee six hours ago, or maybe it was yesterday. Either way, I can tell the employees are not stoked to have my unsightly self posted up in their shop for hours on end. If I had a house to go to, I would, but this is the only place I can get work done. The wifi is so fast. The jazz music is so calming. They don't know it, but their coffee shop is essentially my office, living room, and kitchen.

Food restrictions

Believe it or not, my wagon is not equipped with a kitchen. If I’m lucky, I had enough room for a cooler this time around. Getting ice every other day is a pretty big chore though, so 80% of the time it’s simply a food storing device. Snacks are my game. Peanut butter and jelly's, fruit snacks, nuts, fruit, and granola bars pretty much make up my diet on the road.

Being completely reliant on your vehicle and what's in it

Cars have issues. Things malfunction, break, and die. Being 100% reliant on your vehicle is a scary feeling when you reflect on that. I try to treat my car with the utmost care to avoid any disasters, but shit happens. An equally scary feeling transpires when you must leave your car unattended for an extended period of time. Parking your car quickly becomes a terrifying task when literally all of your belongings are inside of it. It's your home. When you are in an unfamiliar place, it's hard to tell where is safe to leave your car. It's nerve-wracking every time.

Living in a Subaru

If I was fortunate enough to have a remodeled sprinter home with all the amenities and some room to roam, I think I could very easily adjust to life on the road, but more money needs to be made on the road for that dream to become a reality. In the meantime, my beat-up Subaru is my house on wheels. It's small, it's cluttered, and usually smelly. Most nights are cold and most mornings are unbearably hot. My janky velcro curtains can't compete against the morning sun, so sleeping-in is never an option. It's not the most comfortable home, but it always gets me to where I need to be. 

In the end,

It is important for me to remind myself why I chose to live on the road. 

It's in hopes of getting my freelance career where I want it to be. 

To find friendship among people who are doing the same thing with their lives.

To see the world while I’m young. 

To gain appreciation for new places and environments. 

To have the ability to be outside everyday for a hike or a climbing session. 

To spend quality time with myself. 

And to live a simpler life.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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